Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West

Chris Evans


(1847 - 1917)


Chris Evans beginnings are not known. Evans claimed at times to be from Vermont and other times from Canada. He was the leader/member of the Evans-Sontag Gang which stopped and robbed a number of Southern Pacific trains in California. The train holdups attributed to this gang include:


Pixley, Califronia - February 22, 1889: the first train robbery attributed to the Evans-Sontag Gang. While blasting the express car open, four passengers - one lawman and the others employees - crept on the other side of the train toward the holdup. However, these saviors were spotted by the bandits and fired upon. After several were wounded, they retreated. The outlaws opened the strong box and fled.


Goshen, California - January 20, 1890: the second and least troublesome robbery by the Evans-Sontag Gang. After stopping the train a few miles outside of town, the bandits left with an estimated $20,000. Some sources state it was $2,000.


Ceres, California - September 3, 1891: a failed attempted robbery of a train when the employee in the messenger car refused to open the door. Even after blasting a hole in the side of the railroad car, the messenger still held his ground. The attempt came to an end when two Southern Pacific detectives, who were passengers on the train, fired on the bandits.


Collis, California - August 3, 1892: a successful robbery, but only after tossing six sticks of dynamite at the stubborn express messenger. Amount taken was rumored to be $30,000 to $50,000 dollars, but was probably much less.


Initially, the first two robberies were blamed on the Dalton Gang. Grat Dalton had been spending some of the two dollar bills from the Goshen train robbery. Railroad detectives were sure the Daltons were involved and Grat and Bill Dalton were arrested shortly after the Ceres, California train robbery Grat Dalton escaped from the jail on September 20, 1891 using a hacksaw blade, climbing down a ladder outside the window of the jail and mounting a horse tied in a nearby orchard. The brother-in-law of Chris Evans would state much later Evans helped Grat Dalton escape by supplying the cutting instrument, ladder and horse. As the story unfolded, Grat had sold a horse to Chris Evans and Evans paid for the horse with the booty.


Added to the profile was George Sontag. George in the taverns around town began talking about the train robberies in astonishing detail. George Sontag was arrested and a deputy sheriff and railroad detective headed for Evans home where John and George Sontag had been living. Evans and John Sontag met the lawmen with guns in hand, fired at the fleeing officers and escaped.


One of the longest and largest manhunts in California began. Evans and Sontag continued to elude posses and bounty hunters. For some unknown reason, Evans would return to his home outside Visalia, CA. The waiting posse fired surprise shots at the bandits who fled to a nearby hay and manure pile. The lawmen continued the deluge of bullets which wounded John Sontag in the right arm and in the right side of his body. Sontag was bleeding badly. As Evans checked his comrade, a bullet hit his right arm and shotgun pellets tore his right eye out of its socket. The cautious lawmen waited the night and in the morning found only a dead John Sontag.


Chris Evans had crawled some six miles to a friend's house. The authorities were called and Evans arrested. He was sentenced to life in prison at Folsom Prison.


On December 28, 1893, Chris Evans escaped using a smuggled gun. Again Evans would return home and be captured. He was sent back to Folsom Prison and paroled on April 14, 1911 being "a model prisoner". This time Chris Evans headed to Portland, Oregon where he died in 1917.


Chris Evans is buried in the Mount Calvary Cemetery in Portland, OR.



Gravesite Map


Information compiled by Steve Grimm


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© Wild West History Association - a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation